None of the following statements will come as a surprise: California is beautiful, the weather was nearly perfect, the city is crowded, and people are busy. My travel experience was accentuated by the fact that much of my time was spent in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. Each of these locations is truly amazing. None of them felt completely real.
On the plane ride back home, I was sitting with a young family from Canada also connecting through Denver. They were returning from a trip to Disneyland and the greater L.A. area. Their stories were filled with joyful reflections of rides and restaurants, travel challenges and a strong desire to return home. I learned that this family has traveled extensively to many parts of the United States. Mostly, their excursions have taken them to California, Florida and New York. When asked about their impressions of the United States, they were extremely positive and slightly judgmental. They love the excitement and offerings in America, but they find the people lack the warmth and consideration of their homeland.
When pressed for examples, they shared the absences of simple pleasantries including casual conversations, “hello” and “good morning” and holding the door for someone walking into a store. As my fly-mate described it, “All the nice things that keep us together.”
As we began our descent into Denver, I realized that time was slipping away. My responsibility as an ambassador demanded that I address some of their concerns. With only a few minutes until wheels on the ground, I asked if they had travelled to the Midwest, Iowa and specifically Des Moines. The answer on all accounts was “no.”
I informed them that simply courtesies, community pride and genuine hospitality are alive and well south of their border. To experience the type of warmth they have grown accustomed to, they need only to come to Des Moines and discover the west side. While I told them I cannot promise The Pirates of the Caribbean, I felt confident that they would discover a community with gravitas, abundant offerings and plenty of doors held open.
Thanks to each of you for making the City of Des Moines and the west side so easy to sell — even at 35,000 feet.